Face mask rules

Wearing a face mask is still mandatory in some settings. Learn about when you need to wear a face mask, when you can remove it, and who is exempt.

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Requirements for masks have been updated

Masks are only required for certain high-risk settings, such as travel, hospitals and indoor music festivals.

Masks are still encouraged for indoor settings where you cannot maintain a safe distance from others and for customer-facing retail staff. 

The rules for face masks at schools have also changed.

Latest COVID settings

Household and close contacts

Household and close contacts do not need to self-isolate if they do not have any symptoms, but must follow NSW Health household and close contact guidelines.

People who test positive to COVID-19 must continue to self-isolate for 7 days from the date of their positive test and follow the testing positive to COVID-19 and managing COVID-19 safely at home advice.

Unvaccinated international arrivals

Unvaccinated international arrivals are no longer required to undertake hotel quarantine. These passengers now follow the same guidelines as fully vaccinated international arrivals and take a rapid antigen test within 24 hours of arrival.

When face masks are required 

Masks provide an extra layer of protection against COVID-19 and flu. Masks are still mandatory in some settings and are strongly recommended in crowded places.

All people in NSW over the age of 12 are required to wear a face mask:  

  • in airports
  • at a public hospital or private health facility (including private hospitals and day procedure centres)
  • in residential care facilities or hostels
  • in indoor music festivals with more than 1,000 people
  • on public transport and public transport waiting areas (including in taxis and rideshare services)
  • at a cruise terminal
  • on a domestic commercial aircraft (including when the aircraft is flying above NSW).

If you are over the age of 12 and are a household or close contact of someone who has tested positive to COVID-19, you must also wear a face mask when you are in an indoor setting that is not your own home, including workplaces and tertiary education settings. School settings may have their own guidance for students which should be followed.

A person can remove their face mask in these settings if they are:  

  • eating or drinking
  • communicating with another person who is deaf or hard of hearing
  • at work, and
    • the nature of the work makes the wearing of a fitted face covering a risk to the person's, or another persons' health and safety
    • where clear enunciation or visibility of a person’s mouth is essential
    • where the work is in an indoor area and no other person is in the area
  • asked to remove their mask for identity purposes
  • in an emergency situation
  • providing goods and services and the person needs to remove their mask to provide those goods or services properly
  • doing exercise outside, in a gym or in a gym class
  • in a dance class
  • a resident at an aged care facility
  • a guest in a hotel/motel and in their room
  • in the process of getting married
  • in a vehicle alone or with another person from their household. 

You need to wear your face mask again as soon as the reason for taking it off has ended.

Penalties for not wearing a mask as directed  

The NSW Police may issue on-the-spot fines to individuals who fail to comply with a direction to wear a mask, as it is a breach of public health orders. 

Check the penalties for breaching public health orders

Read more about using face masks.

Greater details on mask requirements

Removing your mask to communicate with someone

You can take off your face mask when you need to communicate with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and seeing the mouth is essential.

It is important to keep 1.5m apart, where practicable. 

Visiting residents in aged care

If you are visiting an aged care facility or disability home, there may be rules that apply to you. Check with the operator of the facility.

How a mask is defined

Under the public health order, a ‘fitted face covering’ means a mask or other covering that: 

  1. fits securely around the face, and, 

  1. is designed or made to be worn over the nose and mouth to provide the wearer with protection against infection. 

When you wear a mask you must make sure that it is covering both your nose and your mouth. 

Single-use and reusable cloth masks both help to prevent the spread of COVID-19, if used correctly. Scarfs and bandanas are not considered a ‘fitted face covering’ under the public health order. 

Face shields

Face shields are not a substitute for face masks however people who are unable to wear a mask due to an exemption, may find it easier to wear a face shield.  

If this is the case for you, ensure the face shield covers the sides of your face and below the chin. 


Lawful reasons for not wearing a face mask

The public health order includes several lawful reasons for not wearing a mask. 

You are not required to wear a mask if you have an illness, condition or disability that makes wearing a mask unsuitable.

Please be respectful to people who are not wearing a mask as the reasons for not wearing a mask are not always visible or obvious.  

Proof of exemption for not wearing a mask

If you cannot wear a face mask because of a disability, illness, or condition, you must carry either: 

  • a medical certificate or letter signed by a registered health practitioner (such as a doctor) or a registered NDIS provider, or, 

  • a statutory declaration. 

A statutory declaration will require you to identify your disability, illness, or condition, and declare: 

  • you have the illness, condition, or disability, and, 

  • the illness, condition, or disability makes wearing a fitted face covering unsuitable. 

Proof of exemption and identity

If you are in a situation where masks are mandatory, a police officer can ask you to confirm the lawful reason you are not wearing a face mask. 

If asked by a police officer, you must show them either 

  • a medical certificate or letter from the health practitioner or NDIS provider, or 

  • a statutory declaration. 

You must also carry and produce evidence of your name and address to a police officer if requested. 

Children, toddlers under 2 years, and babies

Masks should not be worn by toddlers under 2 years of age and babies, as they are a choking and suffocation risk. 

Children under 12 are exempt but are encouraged to wear masks where practicable.

School staff and students

Find out about the COVID-19 safety measures at NSW schools.  

Read the COVID-19 advice for parents, students and children.

People who wear traditional or religious garments

Even if you wear traditional or religious garments, you still need to wear a fitted face mask in the designated settings.  

There are face masks available that can be worn with traditional and religious garments. If you are wearing a face covering, like a veil or scarf, it is recommended that you wear your face mask underneath.  


Refusing entry to a premises 

If a person refuses to wear a face mask at a premises, the occupier of the premises may refuse entry to that person. It is a matter for the occupier of each premises to exercise judgement on what is appropriate for their premises and for the well-being of their staff and customers. 

If an occupier intends to refuse entry, they should be familiar with the exceptions and speak to the person to understand their circumstances. 

Officers will issue a penalty notice if you clearly refuse to wear a mask without a lawful reason. 


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